Thursday, July 31, 2008

bye, bye old workplace

Yesterday was my last day of work at the place where I've been employed for the bulk of the last ten years. I've had my share of lay-offs and goodbyes there, but I think this one may be final. Then again, I thought the others were too. But for some reason I just couldn't stay away. Well, perhaps this time the umbilical cord has been cut and I am moving on to other opportunities - hopefully bigger and better, though I did enjoy my last teaching job quite a bit.

The boss took us out to lunch today. Jonah joined us, posing for the top photo, noodle soul patch and all. The other picture shows all the staff in my program -- other than me. The man is the boss, the younger woman of the pair a fellow instructor and friend, and the other woman a job developer (i.e. someone who helps clients find employment).

It hasn't quite hit me that I am getting laid off. The reason? Program funding is ending. (Such is the world of grant-funded services). I do have a job lined up for Prague, which makes the parting easier. We timed our move for this, anticipating my lay-off. So, technically, things are moving right along. I wonder what my new job will be like. Hard to say. My guess is not as fulfilling, but it will definitely be a new challenge and I thrive on those.

back from New York

Just three days ago we got back from New York where we cheered for my sister at her wedding. The trip centered on family, though we did take in some sights as well. The favorite was the Brooklyn Promenade (see pic) with nice views of the Manhattan skyline and an adjacent playground - a hit with Jonah! We also got to see my sister perform at Prospect Park - a huge show. And get this: she was the opener for Philip Glass!

My sister's ceremony was beautiful and she and the groom looked happy as can be. It was great catching up with old friends and meeting my brother-in-law's family.

I'll put up a few pics soon. For now, just a tease.

And may I just say that the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott was definitely one of the best hotels I've stayed in. For sure, worth your money, in case you want to know. And they didn't pay me to say that... but perhaps they should.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

check-ups all around

We took our kitties to the vet for their check-ups, shots - the works before our big move. Now that they are both in their senior years, we figured might as well have their teeth checked and cleaned for the first time. Fini's were just fine, but Pancho had some spoiled teeth, poor old cat, so they had to pull a few out. Apparently he had been in pain, so the extractions would make him feel better once healed.

When the kitties got home, I had to warn Jonah to be gentle to the kitties after their surgery. I told him that they had their teeth cleaned and pulled. He was very concerned and said the following:

"I'm gonna ride (my scooter) to the store for more teeth, for new teeth... new teeth for Pancho, new teeth for Fini."


"I'll run to the store and get new teeth for Pancho. And he'll feel better and it'll not be hurting and he'll eat food with the new teeth. And he'll say thank you."

What a sweet, caring boy.

Today we went for his three-year check-up. He said: "Oh, like the kitties." Something like that, anyway. Except no shots, no teeth pulled.

He now weighs 31.5 lbs and measures 37 inches, which puts him in the 50th percentile in weight and 90th percentile in height.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

ten years later

While rummaging through my mounds of paper in the basement, I stumbled across a list of goals that I typed up for myself about ten years ago. It was interesting to go through the list and note how I have done fulfilling those and how my focus has, in some ways shifted and, in others, stayed the same.


• Teach adult refugees and immigrants English - ✔

• Teach English to students with other first languages - ✔

• Teach theater to adults - no longer interested in this

• Teach youth or children 8 or older theater - ✔

• Teach English, theater or other subjects in a public alternative high school - ✔

• Open, run and teach in an alternative public high school - my former student is doing this instead. She hired me to write some of the curriculum for her school. How cool is that?

• Teach Czech - ✔

• Get a Master's Degree and a teaching certificate in ESL for middle/high school level - ✔

• Run, direct and perform in a private theater - not going this direction anymore

• Write a novel - no longer interested

• Write short stories - not on my list anymore

My greatest vision at the time was to start and run an artist community that would have a local and global component to the artists' work. This was to be a place, a center, where artists live together in a beautiful setting, share ideas and cooperate on projects.

I ended up doing this on a small scale. Many of you may still remember Community Art Share, an event I created and ran for two years during which artists from different disciplines presented their work. I enjoyed it, even got a grant to continue, but I got burned out by how much work it was for no pay.

What an interesting find. I should make a list of new goal, shove it some place, find it in another ten years, and see how I've fared.

When I shared my discovery with Tim, he said in typical Tim flat affect: "My goal ten years ago was just to surround myself by lovely people." He said this looking at Jonah and added: "I'm still deciding about you." Nice husband I have, huh?

Monday, July 21, 2008

I can't believe it

I can't believe we're moving in just three weeks! I've been sorting stuff in the basement like mad, throwing away junk and organizing the rest. It feels good to group and label and to purge. Of course, the hardest stuff to go through are old journals and random bits of memories: a poster from a college play, love poems from high school, you know the deal... Whenever I run across such an emotion-laden relic, I get swept away into the past. Talk about time-consuming.

I'm proud to say that I've reduced my basement belongings to just a handful of boxes, which only cover two levels on one of those metal frame utility shelves they sell in the power tool sections. That's quite an accomplishment. The bulk of what I am saving are photographs, letters, old journals and notebooks filled with my sophomoric fiction and poetry attempts. I don't know why, but I just can't seem to get rid of those.

In the process, I also discovered I have a couple of envelopes of drawings I did as a kid. Some even from the time I was three (Jonah's age). Can you believe it? That's all thanks to my grandmother, who has been the chief memorabilia keeper in our family. And I'm grateful for it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

the sights

We've had a busy social calendar, treating my dad & his wife to all kinds of tourist attractions. I'm starting to feel like a professional tour guide! But it's fun to show family around.

Yesterday we took a trip to the Columbia Gorge - Bridge of the Gods, Multnomah Falls, Crown Point, Sherrard Point... They are impressed with the city and the surrounding scenery as well. Yes! Pics here.

Jonah has been putting up with all the activity well, but he is still under the weather, so I'm sure he'll be happy to have a little rest next week before we head out to New York for my sister's wedding. Busy summer!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


My dad and his wife are in town for the first time this week. We've been having a great time sightseeing and restaurant-hopping.

Though their first words (after hellos and kisses) upon stepping off the airplane were: "You live so FAR," in only one day, both family members have been thoroughly charmed by Portland. Finally they understand why I have been living in the "ass of the world," as Czechs -- affectionately, as they are -- call remote places.

Here is a picture of Jonah with his Czech grandpa. More photos here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Jonah caught a bug. He's had a fever since yesterday and it's been so hot here! We've been inside all day, staying mellow reading books and watching videos. I hope the fever subsides by tomorrow. This sucks, because my dad and his wife are coming to visit us for the first time and they get in tomorrow night. I had so much planned. I hope Jonah feels good by Tuesday.

Friday, July 11, 2008

a shelter over our head

As of yesterday, we have a place to live in Prague! Thanks, dad! I haven't seen pictures of the apartment. All I know is that it has two bedrooms, is furnished and that it's on a quiet street close to everything.

The building is practically across the street from a Jewish cemetery where my paternal grandparents AND Franz Kafka are buried. The location is quite good - only a few subway or tram stops from city center and Jonah's pre-school and my work, which are within blocks of each other. One tram ride will get us over to see my grandma as well.

One of the best parts is that my best Czech friend and her three kids (and husband) live only a fifteen minute walk away. Her kids are 6, 7 and 13 years old. They have a backyard (with a swing set!)- a rarity in Prague, where most live in apartments. Let's just hope the furniture and wall colors aren't too horrendous in this place. But I can't complain. We have been able to take care of most of the essentials remotely - job, place to live, and Jonah's pre-school. What more can I ask?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Name Day

By the way, today is Amalia's Name Day in the Czech Republic.

Before we decided to name our daughter Amalia, I consulted a Hebrew language scholar and this is what he said: Amalia is a 'hebraized' name of either Italian (Latin) or German origin. In German, Amelia means "hardworking" and in Hebrew Amalia means 'work of God' or 'God has worked/perhaps 'wrought'. Our little girl both worked hard in her short life... just to breathe alone... and she was indeed a work of God.

Now back to the tradition of 'name days.' I will surely remind you when mine is coming up (in October), so you can send me flowers, cupcakes or any such small gift. Thanks in advance.

Jonah's is September 27th and Tim doesn't have one since his name doesn't have a Czech equivalent. Aw... poor Tim. I guess we'll have to assign him an arbitrary date -- maybe on Labor Day or some such nameless holiday -- so he doesn't get left behind.

park encounters

Today Jonah surprised me. At the park I marveled his interactions with two other kids. One boy, about six years old, sat on the slide alone, looking sad and bored. Jonah came up to him and began to talk to him. Pretty soon, the two of them were playing together under Jonah's leadership. Jonah was the one who came up with the games: bus driver and passenger, pretend skateboarding, riding and feeding a squirrel-shaped rocking toy... The other boy perked up and had a great time. This was really the first time that I had seen Jonah engage an older child like this.

The second interaction happened later in the day when another boy, also a couple of years older than Jonah was crying on a platform leading to a slide. Jonah bent over the boy and touched his shoulder, concerned. The boy said that a girl kicked him and Jonah looked in the boy's eyes and said compassionately: "Sorry I kicked you." He apologized for something he didn't do, but the intention was to make the other boy feel better. I told him how proud I was of him that he did that in the car on the way home and again before he went to sleep today. What a sweetheart he can be.

All this is new. Up until about two months ago, he was mostly only able to play next to other kids, but he has reached a new developmental stage that is much more social and interactive. I think he is ready for pre-school!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

4th of July

The fact that I am not a big fan of 4th of July is no secret to most of my friends. Loud firecrackers scare me and I hide from the sound of fireworks like a little scared dog. Red meat, baked beans and barbecue sauce are permanently off my menu, and drunk people shouting out national anthems into the night are not my favorite companions.

This year, though, we were invited to a friend's barbecue. She has a son just six months younger and Jonah. The boys have been friends since birth. To add to the festivities, my friend's parents, visiting from Korea, and her sister, brother-in-law and nieces, in town from Texas, were all there. These pre-teen girls just loved Jonah. They kicked a soccer ball around with him, read to him, jumped around with him... In short, Jonah was in heaven. What a fun day! We've met up with these girls a few times and every time, Jonah has had a blast. I had no idea he would take to girls eight and ten years older than he is. Surprise, surprise. More pictures here.

The day after 4th of July, an old family friend came to visit from Seattle with her twelve-year-old daughter and her daughter's friend. I had never seen anyone as rude as these young girls were. No thank-you's when offered something, just a plain no with a snarl. No eye contact. The girls just ate and slept at our house, ignored Jonah when he made attempts to talk to them and play with them, yet at the same time they sweet-talked our cats.

I was so stunned that I could hardly sleep the night they stayed over. The ruder girl of the two came from a privileged family and apparently has no idea what gratitude and manners are. It felt as if she had polluted our house with her bad attitude. I actually fantasized about kicking the girls out, but one can't really do that to kids. I felt sad for Jonah who so looked forward to having visitors. Compared to our 4th-of-July friends, these girls were monsters. I hope my son never behaves as ungratefully.

this just in!

Here is for some exciting news: I was just offered the job I recently applied for in Prague. The bulk of what I will be teaching will be "business English." I look forward to having a new challenge and a new work environment. After all, I have been employed by the organization where I currently work for the majority of the last ten years!

The strangest thing about this new offer is that the people who hired me never met me. They saw my resume, cover letter, and a picture of me on my resume (a required component of a European resume). They interviewed me over the internet (voice only; no video) and I got the job. This is definitely the first remote offer I have had. Ah, technology...

Friday, July 04, 2008

words and thoughts

The latest advancements in Jonah's language development are dependent clauses. For a long time, he has been using "and" to connect two statements or to make lists. He has recently begun to lengthen his sentences, using "but," "because" and "while" clauses. The stories he likes to tell have become longer and quite a bit more elaborate as today's quote of the day exemplifies ("I'm a night man and I'm blue. And daddy is a bad guy. He has a scratchy back").

The other day Jonah also correctly counted three items. I have read that two-year-olds, though often able to rattle off numbers in correct order, are not able to grasp the concept of counting. They can only distinguish between one item and two or more which they will, no matter how many there are, count as two. I have noticed that exact phenomenon with Jonah. By the age of three, toddlers are able to count three things and as they get older, they begin to really grasp the concept of counting. So, Jonah counted to three the other day. It was trucks, I think.

Jonah has been asking a lot of why questions as well. For example: "What do ladies wear bras for?" and "What is the sky for?" I didn't think that at barely three-years-old, my child would make me sweat and strain my brain as I try to respond to him.

Speaking of words, I have become completely addicted to playing Scrabble online (Scrabulous, actually, via Facebook). In the morning, that's the first thing I always want to do, and when Jonah falls asleep, I can't wait to jump on the computer to play some more. Maybe it's because playing the game takes my mind off other stressful things, like grieving. It's so much fun; my latest obsession.

The addiction is paying off -- as far as games are concerned anyways. Last night I had a couple of friends over for "game night" and I kicked ass in Boggle. Yeah! Too bad we didn't play for money! I think it's just because I've been in word game mode and I've been learning new words, useful for such empty pursuits as Scrabble and Boggle.

When my students learned about my Scrabulous addition, they said: "Well, at least it's not cigarettes or alcohol." Wow, I think they took the word 'addiction' a little too literally.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

getting ready

We are getting ready for our big move. There is so much to do! Find homes for our kitties, sort and pack up our stuff, reserve storage... The list goes on and on. Sometimes when I think about it, I feel overwhelmed. But I'm also excited.

I wonder how the transition period once there will go. Jonah is not used to be in a fluent Czech environment and he will be starting Czech preschool come September. He is really ready for preschool, constantly eying and trying to interact with other kids. I've gotten him a couple of books about children going to school and it seems like he is very excited. A friend said: "Starting preschool is always hard at first, so I don't think you have to worry about the language. That way he will be adjusting to both all at once." I think he is right.

As far as my job, I still haven't heard back. They were waiting for my manager's references which he sent yesterday. He said: "She is very skillful teacher, her reliability, commitment, organizational ability and willingness to help others is a win win for whoever hires her." Is it bad to tout your own horn once in a while? Well, I've done it again anyway.

I'll keep you posted on further developments.